I signed up for NaNoWriMo again this year, of course. How could I not? I waffled for a while about what I should be writing--a sequel to one of the last two novels? Something involving the Calgary-based superhero group led by Joe Clark, retired International Agent? Maybe some cosmic battle fought on higher planes of existence?
But I ended up deciding on another fantasy novel, in what I am tentatively planning to be a huge, sprawling umpteen-book epic series. Because, unlike some people, I like such things. In the NaNoWriMo forums, I got involved in a discussion of Robert Jordan, and all these people saying that they stopped reading the series in the third book, or the fourth book, or the seventh book, or the tenth book, or whatever, often because of frustration with the interminability of the series. For me, that's practically one of the selling points.
I'm cannibalizing two previous stories, which both seem to fit with the overall plot I have in mind while taking place far enough apart to be able to define the world almost by triangulation. The world, which one of the stories is already sort of set in, is something I built as a world-building exercise in the summer of '85 staying with my grandparents in Stettler. I've lost most of the notes I made, but I remember the highlights. There's a big decaying empire to the south, a big decadent Aztec-style empire to the east, and in the middle a sort of ithmus, like about a quarter of Europe, where everything else happens. I tossed in a bunch of cultures because they seemed like a good idea at the time, and I wanted all the AD&D races there, but whatever else, I have to keep the elves.
Anyway, I'm still trying to finish my Space Empires III game before the end of the month. I've still got a week, but it's a bit busy. This weekend will be taken up mostly by Simon's birthday--he turns four on Sunday--as well as Nicole's brother Wayne's, on Saturday.
Nicole's going down to Medicine Hat for some more readings on Tuesday, and that's a long enough drive that she will be going down Monday, and maybe staying overnight in Calgary on Tuesday instead of coming all the way back. To prevent logistical nightmares, the kids will be going back to the grandparents' in Beaumont, so I will essentially be on my own. I have a number of plans, the majority of which I know from experience I will not execute. But I will probably go to a NaNoWriMo get-together on Monday night, at a bar which is relatively near the office. The problem will be killing time in between, but I think I've decided that I will finally make some time to go down to the University library and check out that Dictionary of Minor Planet Nomenclature book. Tuesday night I will probably just go home and watch "American Beauty", which Nicole has no interest in watching. As long as I finish it in time to tape "24".
For some reason, since the end of summer we've gotten more TV stations than we used to. We cut back to basic cable a year or more ago, because we were mostly watching network programs, and didn't have much time to watch more. But now we're getting a whole bunch of channels again, and as far as I know aren't paying more. Mostly I've been trying to catch a few Star Trek:TNG reruns on "Spike". Tonight we were fortunate enough to catch "Dark Page", one of the few that we had never seen before, with Majel Barrett's best acting in the entire series.
The only new show we've really stuck to this year is "Coupling". I know, but I never saw the British version, and likely never will, and this seems to be going well enough. "The West Wing" doesn't seem to have changed too much for the worse, despite Aaron Sorkin's departure. I hope Gary Cole's character will get some airtime, because I tend to like him.
I finally managed to finish The Plains of Passage, despite forgetting to bring it with me for Thanksgiving. It wasn't quite as bad as it could have been, but it really could have had the prehistoric botany and zoology cut out into appendices or entire separate books. And sometimes Auel gets a little hamhanded with her characters. It had its moments, but I'm glad I'm finished it.
When I was up for Thanksgiving, I ended up reading Robert Sawyer's Iterations collection, which was a library book. I'd read several of the stories before, but quite a few were new to me. One of them, "Fallen Angel", didn't really work for me, but it was apparently inspired by a particular sculpture, and maybe seeing that would have made it work better. On the whole it was pretty solid, though.
After finished The Plains of Passage, I read another library book, Tricky Business by Dave Barry. Ever since reading Big Trouble, I was hoping he'd return to fiction, and he has, with admirable promptness for someone who is surely very busy thinking up booger jokes. I mean, honing his craft of humour. I think it holds up quite well with its predecessor, and proves the first book is not just a fluke. It has some almost harrowing moments to go with the madcap humour, and engenders some serious suspense, too.
Then I went on to Starfishers, the second book in Glen Cook's SF trilogy of the same name. The first one, Shadowline, was an almost straightforward military SF book, with two mercenary bands manipulated into opposing each other by the nasty human offshoot race, the Sangaree. The Starfishers proper, a mysterious group that live in deep space, are only a minor plot thread in the first book. The second book takes a quite different tack, following a spy sent to infiltrate the Starfishers, with a friend who turns out to be one of the survivors from the first book(maybe I should've noticed that earlier, but I'd forgotten his name). There are also Sangaree involved, but the book focuses on the main character, who has some problems because of frequent psych-conditioning into various cover identities. It jumps around a little bit in the timeline, as Cook often does, and the same character goes by different names, even in his own head, at different periods. I hope we see more of him in the third book, Star's End.
Now I'm reading another Robert Sawyer: Hybrids, the third in his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy. It's another slow-paced book, like the last one. Sawyer does seem to be seriously proposing his "Neanderthal" world as a utopia, despite its lack of agriculture, universal electronic surveillance and recording, and ruthless eugenics program. It does ask some tough questions about humanity and our own cultures, though, and is often interesting.
I'm also making my way through I Have Landed, Stephen Jay Gould's final collection of articles on natural history. As usual, he seems to spend more time writing about scientists and philosophers than he does about science, but it's still fitfully interesting.
A couple of links to boost my ego a little bit:
First, there's a review of the Open Space anthology in "Challenging Destiny". About my story, it says "'The New Paranoia Album' by Aaron V. Humphrey tries to make some points about the power of pop culture in a fantastical story but it didn’t seem make as big an impression as it needed to." That's an interesting deduction on the part of the reviewer, about what my story was trying to do, though a bit misguided. Frankly, I wasn't "trying to do" much with my story, just entertain myself with a story which is more, really, about its main character's struggles with obsession than it is with the power of pop culture in general. But whatever, at least I got mentioned.*
Second, in a recent entry in "Cosmic Log", the author was talking about books related to solar flares. Mentioned was Thomas T. Thomas & Roger Zelazny's Flare, and I remembered having written a review of that back when I was actively reviewing books on rec.arts.sf.written, ten years or so ago. So imagine my glee at finding a link to a collection of reviews of the book, and my review being there! It's like a brush with fame or something. Oddly enough, that review is not up on the web with the rest of my reviews; I may have to remedy that now, and see what other ones I might have missed.
An exercise to the reader: at my current rate, at what date will I reach the top of my countdown? Don't neglect higher-order derivatives.
290. Fleetwood Mac: Never Going Back Again, from Rumours
This quiet acoustic number from the blockbuster album is one of the most striking, probably because of its very quietness, and the oblique lyrics.
289. Depeche Mode: Behind The Wheel, from Music For The Masses
The synth-driven beat to this song is the main attraction of it, with the lyrics just icing on the cake, following the usual Depeche Mode themes.
Balloons cost more when they're blown up. Well, that's inflation for you.